The launching pad at Toronto’s Rogers Centre was open for business on Tuesday, and business was good.
As usual, the Boston Red Sox swung for the fences as they visited the Toronto Blue Jays for the first game of a three game set at the former SkyDome, David Ortiz nailed his third homer in nine games to start his season, and Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes chipped in with park jobs of their own…
…but Edwin Encarnacion belted two for Toronto, including a mammoth upper deck shot as the Blue Jays batters beat up on lefty Jon Lester and the visiting Sox 9-7.
Despite the loss, the Red Sox finish April with the best record in the Major Leagues for the 11th time in their storied history at 18-8. The last two times that this has occurred, in 2004 and 2007, Boston has gone on to win the World Series.
Lester was vying for a 5-0 start, but had a devilish night, allowing six runs on six hits in six innings, though the three that were allowed in the third inning were questionable. Trailing 1-0 on a Jose Bautista RBI double in the 1st, Lester loaded the bases in the third on a single, a hit batsman and a conventional free pass to Bautista, whom Jarrod Saltalamacchia tried to pick off at first base…
…his elbow hitting Umpire Clint Fagen’s face mask cocking his arm to throw to first, but the contact caused Saltalamaccia’s throw to sail into right field, scoring two. Two outs later J.P. Arencibia’s double brought Bautista home, giving the Jays a 4-0 lead.
Had Saltalamacchia successfully protested the errant throw, the ball would have been ruled dead and the runs would not have counted. The Red Sox catcher admitted that he didn’t know there was such a rule, or he would have protested the play due to Umpire interference.
“My elbow hit the umpire’s mask, which I’ve done in the past, but no one has ever said anything, so I didn’t make a stink about it because I didn’t really know the ruling on it,” Saltalamacchia said. “Now I know, once it hits his mask it’s got to be a dead ball.”
Boston’s bats woke up in the top of the fourth, getting two of the runs back for Lester as both Ortiz and Carp homered to Center off Blue Jays’ starter Brandon Morrow, then another in the top of the fifth on a Dustin Pedroia RBI single, making it 4-3 Toronto – but then Encarnacion blasted a 3-1 pitch into the fifth deck in the bottom of the frame to double up the Sox 6-3.
A solo shot by Gomes in the top of the 6th and a bases clearing double by Big Papi in the top of the 7th briefly gave the Red Sox a 7-6 lead, but Encarnacion would connect on a two run blast in the bottom of the seventh and the Jays’ wouldn’t trail again.
Encarnacion’s blast into the upper deck was just the 14 time in the stadium’s history that a ball had found the fifth deck and was measured at 427 feet.
The two teams square off again on Wednesday evening with Clay Buchholz scheduled to start for the Sox and Mark Buehrle taking the mound for Toronto.